Jack Elliott gets first MLS start in front of parents

It’s been a whirlwind two weeks for Jack Elliott.

Two weeks ago, after two appearances in the game day 18, he was thrust into his MLS debut at halftime against DC United. Richie Marquez was forced to leave the match and enter concussion protocol, and Elliott slotted into his position. Playing 45 minutes, Elliott had a tackle and clearance while notching six ball recoveries and won 100 percent of his duels. He completed 27 passes in the half, with a 70.4 percent passing accuracy and seven final third entries.

Last week, Elliott started for Bethlehem Steel FC, but instead of his usual position of centerback, he played 75 minutes as a central defensive midfielder. In the six spot, Elliott notched his first professional assist on a long ball to Seku Conneh, which proved to be the game winning goal in a 2-0 shutout for Steel FC.

“It’s been crazy,” Elliott said. “That DC game, it was great to get my first 45 minutes under my belt, but it also left me wanting more. And playing for Steel was also a great experience."

Then, this week, not only did Elliott get playing time with the Union, but he also made his first career MLS Start.

“It was extremely exciting,” Elliott said. “Coach just told me to worry too much about the stature of the players, just defend and play my game. It was just a surreal experience.”

A player’s first MLS start is always special. But for Elliott, it was even more so, as his parents were in attendance.

Elliott and his family planned this trip a few months back. His parents would come stateside and watch the Union play, regardless if Elliott was going to be in the game day 18. But he made the start and played the full 90 minutes.

“My parents were over for the game, which made it much more surreal,” Elliott said. “It was good for them to see me in my first start and they enjoyed it. It was obviously an emotional night for them, and they were very proud.”

Playing centerback, Elliott had to defend against the potent New York City FC attack, which features three strikers. The middle one, the guy Elliott defended against the most, was none other than World Cup winner David Villa.  

“It was crazy playing against Villa,” Elliott said. “He’s a world cup winner, still a top class player, he’s just always been a great player.”

Against DC United, Elliott became the first 2017 MLS SuperDraft pick from the fourth round to make his debut, and he also became the first pick to make a MLS start.

“Draft pick is just a number,” Elliott said. “It’s what you do when you get to a club that makes a difference.”

In his two MLS matches this season, Elliott has a 73 percent passing accuracy, while adding eight clearances, one interception, two blocks (one against NYCFC’s Rodney Wallace on the goal line) and nine ball recoveries. Elliott was paired up with Oguchi Onyewu against DC United and Richie Marquez against NYCFC, both of whom helped Elliott play his game and feel comfortable in his role.

Elliott getting playing time continues to help his development as a player. He’ll get his next chance to make his mark on the Union when the club hosts Montreal Impact Saturday to close out a three-game homestand. Kick-off is at 1:00 p.m.